Alia Shawkat plays a lesbian in love with her best friend in “Wild Canaries”

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Fans of murder mysteries and screwball comedy will find a lot to love in Wild Canaries, the latest film by Lawrence Michael Levine. Borrowing equally from Hitchcock and Woody Allen, Wild Canaries tells the story of engaged couple Noah (writer/director Levine) and Barri (Sophia Takal), who start to suspect foul play when their elderly neighbor passes away. Paranoia and bickering soon take over the relationship as the two lovebirds stumble into their haphazard detective work.

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Both Noah and Barri are accompanied by their lesbian BFFs, who find themselves wrapped up in the couple’s relationship drama. Jean (Alia Shawkat) lives with the couple, and is opening a hipster resort in the Catskills with her best friend Barri. They have a touchy-feely relationship (raise your hand if you’ve had one of those with a straight girl) that culminates with Jean accidentally kissing Barri after they secure financing for their resort. Noah has long suspected that Jean was in love with Barri, and is dismayed to realize he’s been right.

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But Noah has his own complicated relationship with Eleanor (Annie Parisse), his business partner/ex-girlfriend. Despite leaving him for a woman, Eleanor and Noah still have a very close and complicated relationship that is almost reignited by the unfolding drama. Their connection is so obvious that Eleanor’s girlfriend Clare (Donnetta Lavinia Grays) shows up just long enough to give Noah a black eye.

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At the end of the film, Eleanor and Jean meet and start hanging out together. We don’t know if they’ll end up together, but they definitely have friend chemistry. Wild Canaries does a terrific job of treating its queer characters naturally; these women are gay, but that’s not the only thing that defines them. After Jean kisses her, Barri is surprised and acknowledges that she enjoyed it, but she remains committed to Noah. Her bi-curiosity isn’t sexualized or dissected; it just is. Who knew a throwback film could be so refreshing?

Wild Canaries is available on iTunes/VOD and in select theaters.

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